Makin’ a livin’ the old, hard way
Takin’ and givin’ my day by day
I dig snow and rain and the bright sunshine
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line)
My dog Sam eats purple flowers
Ain’t got much, but what we got’s ours
We dig snow and rain and the bright sunshine
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line)
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line)
I feel fine
I’m talkin’ ‘bout peace of mind
I’m gonna take my time
I’m gettin’ the good sign
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line)
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line)
Lovin’ the free and feelin’ spirit
of hugging a tree, when you get near it
Diggin’ the snow and rain and the bright sunshine
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line)
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line)
I feel fine
I’m talkin’ ‘bout peace of mind
I’m gonna take my time
I’m gettin’ the good sign
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line)
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line)
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line) (La-la la-la la-la la-la)
Draggin’ the line (Draggin’ the line) (La-la la-la la-la la)
~ Draggin’ the Line (Tommy James)
“Clearly, I don’t own enough towels,” Tony observed. “So all that hair is a thing, huh?”
“Lotta cultures ‘round tha globe believe long hair gives a body power: strengthens intuition, increases vitality – even boosts sexual energy.”
“You do seem to have a surplus of all of that, but I’d have attributed it to a mutation and a healing factor.”
“Those ain’t two separate things in me, ya know.” He rubbed another of Tony’s white thick towels into his golden mane and then rolled the wet mass up in it to drape it over his shoulders. “Genghis Khan used t’ cut tha hair o’ people he conquered t’ humiliate an’ weaken ‘em.”
“What a guy. Please tell me you didn’t know him personally.”
Victor snorted, nearly purring to have Tony relaxed enough to tease him. “An old boss told me hair conducts energy int’ tha body – somethin’ ‘bout coilin’ it up makin’ it stronger. Then he lost me talkin’ ‘bout coiled antenna wire in AM radios or some shit.”
“Induction – causes any conductor of electromagnetic energy to induce a current in adjacent conductors: the hair viewed as a mass of antennae. Coiling the antenna wire in the radio makes the signal stronger. Okay, I can buy that. I’m not going to go for the hippie look, though – I’d have to redesign my helmet.”
“Dunno what yer sayin’ sometimes, but like t’ hear ya do that.”
“Be smart.” Victor watched from behind him as he stood at the sink to clean up his sculpted facial hair. Managing not to touch him, he growled appreciatively. “It’s sexy.”
Finishing up, Tony held the trimmer and turned to face him. “Let me do yours.”
“Been doin’ mine all night an’ most o’ tha mornin’.”
“Funny.” Tony reached up to scratch a blunt fingernail at the stubble on his chin. “This stuff is about the only hair on you that scrapes me in bed – let’s fix that.” He pulled a stool over from the corner of the huge marble bathroom. “Sit.”
Victor sat. It was hard to cope for a minute, instinct twitching, as Tony moved up closer and set his free hand under his jaw to hold him still. He endured the trim around his mutton chop sideburns and chin as quietly as he could, ears pinned against the buzzing of the tools.
“There, much better. The cleft is a challenge.”
Tony laid a finger in the cleft of his chin and smiled at how smooth it was after his efforts with electric shaver and trimmer.
“Won’t last long,” Victor muttered as he leaned in for a kiss. Tony’s hand on the side of his throat made him purr. “Usually use a straight razor t’ keep it down fer a day or two.”
“I’ve never dated a yeti before.”
“Are we havin’ breakfast in our towels?”
“Hmm, I guess you didn’t pack for a weekend. I think I have a fix for that. Wait here.”
“After seein’ yer collection o’ wrapped new toothbrushes fer ‘guests’ in yer bathroom, I’m guessin’ they don’t all get abandoned fer Pepper t’ eject.”
“Not all of them,” Tony admitted, and winked at him. “I’ll be right back.”
Victor watched him go, wishing he had his phone. He didn’t have any ‘Tony in a towel’ photos.
He attacked his hair again with the towel from around his hips and then braided the mop still slightly damp. Glancing around, he chuckled when he spied a bottle of Bvlgari Black in the cologne collection.
I hate bein’ right all tha time. Amused, he picked up one of the man’s fancier colognes, the one Tony had used a moment ago, and slapped some on. Amouage’s Dia pour Homme: woody, citrus, musky … incense an’ bitter orange among tha top notes, plum an’ orris root in tha mix fer tha middle, through some bottom notes o’ leather, amber, Brazilian rosewood… Nice.
Restless when left alone, he abandoned the devastated towel casualties and wandered back into the bedroom nude, drawn to the window again. He would have gone out to the balcony but even though the door was obvious enough, a gentle tug wouldn’t open it. He didn’t have a clue how to make it work, was afraid of breaking it, and asking the house was too weird.
The Pacific and brilliant blue sky made up the whole world from where he stood. He watched the waves and let the worry about needing to get back to his schedule fade away.
Enjoy it while it lasts – cuz it won’t.
Hunger tugged at him but it was the lazy variety, not the awful grinding torment of the healing factor demanding fuel to repair his body. It could be safely ignored for now. Sometimes he didn’t need to eat for a few days if he made a large kill prior, but he hadn’t taken as much from Pepper’s drunk driver as he could have.
If I had my way, we’d never leave ‘is bed ‘til I gotta clear out. Normal folks hafta eat more regular, I guess.
Hunting meat for Tony in the Arctic Circle had been a treat but Malibu didn’t have much of a tradition for that sort of thing.
His ears twitched as he heard his lover returning. Facing the open door, he arched an eyebrow when he saw a pair of red plaid flannel pajama pants over the man’s arm.
Tony smiled at his dubious expression. “Not a plaid guy? They should fit – drawstring. They’re Happy’s – I keep a guest room for him.”
“Or, ya could lemme get t’ my jeans in tha basement.”
“Humor me. If I get you in these, you’re less likely to escape. I’m not done with you yet.”
“Gonna be tight.”
“What a shame.”
Victor snorted and caught them when Tony tossed them at his chest. He didn’t move at first, watching avidly as the inventor ditched his towel for a pair of soft black cotton lounge pants.
As predicted, the plaid was tight on him, the cloth only reaching to mid-calf on his long legs.
“No shirts?” he asked, as Tony headed for the door without one.
“You don’t need one – covering all that up should be a crime. I’m going without in the name of solidarity. Plus, clothes are overrated. I’d be a nudist if it wouldn’t get me arrested at charity events. Come on.”
Grinning, Victor followed him. He was vaguely aware that in that moment, he would have followed him straight into Hell.
“This a kitchen or Mission Control?”
Tony chuckled, enjoying the mutant’s expression and body language in spite of his efforts to put him at ease. Standing at a loss in the high-tech kitchen, he looked like a fish on a bicycle.
“Tha house drinks java?” Victor scoffed.
“Makes it.” Tony opened the refrigerator and rummaged around as the coffee machine began to make noises behind him. “As I suspected, we don’t have any polar bear. Do you eat eggs? Bacon?”
Glancing back he saw him baring his teeth at the coffee machine. “Don’t attack it, I need it.”
“Looks like some damn thing from a medical thriller – or maybe like it’s gonna shoot spores or some shit.”
“Speaking of, tell me about things you’re into. You make a lot of baseball references.”
“Yer goin’ from spores t’ baseball?”
“I’m a non sequitur kind of guy.”
Victor set a hip against the wide center island far away from the coffee machine and gripped the edge of the dark granite behind him. The plaid flannel pulled tight across his hips in a glorious tribute to maleness that almost made Tony forget about food entirely as he stood there in the escaping cold from the fridge.
“I like tha Cubs.”
“Chicago, huh? Why them?”
Victor gave him an odd look instead of the coffee machine and abruptly there was an elephant in the room. Tony took a deep breath and resolved not to let it sour his efforts or their time together.
I don’t want to accuse him about that mess. I want … I want him to learn to trust me, and then I hope he’ll admit it and we can discuss it.
Victor finally shrugged. “Just like ‘em, have fer a long time. Use t’ take a friend t’ see tha home games when she was li’l; it was fun. So much changes ‘round me … even though tha players come an’ go, tha team stays. They’re ‘sposed t’ have a shot at doin’ pretty good this year – were runners-up last year.”
“Good. I, ah, don’t really follow it – or any sports…”
“Are ya hopin’ it’ll snow?”
“Standin’ there with tha fridge door wide open – do ya even know how t’ cook?”
“Not really,” he admitted. “I just thought I might take a crack at it. Ah … do you? Besides seal fillets in a tent?”
Tony went to lean against the counter by the coffee machine and watched in fascination as Victor found things by scent, including an iron skillet, and started cooking their breakfast.
“So you’re the sort of guy who takes a kid to a baseball game. Cool. Do you still do that?”
“She ain’t been that kid in a shit-ton o’ years but sometimes we catch a game if I’m in town.”
“Was this … your daughter?”
“Nope. Sorta helped raise ‘er, though – here an’ there.” He turned to face him with two eggs in one hand. “Gotta druther?”
“Sorry, a what?”
“Fried, scrambled – don’t make no diff’rence t’ me.”
“Oh. Whatever is easiest.”
Victor smirked. “If ya like ‘em any which way, I can do it that way.”
“If you insist: sunny side up with a dash of lemongrass sprinkled on top.”
“Yer serious? Grass?”
Tony chuckled and fetched some from the fridge for him. “Lemongrass. It’s good.”
“More fer ya.”
“How does a fellow with your, ah, tastes, end up knowing how to make eggs any way there is?”
“Tryin’ t’ impress somethin’ pretty that was worth it in tha sack.”
He winked at him and Tony laughed.
“What gave me away?”
“A billionaire oughta know he can get somethin’ catered on tha cook’s day off.”
“Well, the least I can do is feed the cook some coffee. How do you take it?”
“More sugar than ya probly got.”
“Learn something new every minute.” Tony had offered pointers on how to operate the ‘space stove’ as Victor dubbed it but otherwise, all he had to do was drink his black coffee and watch a feral assassin make breakfast for him. “You need one of those ‘kiss the cook’ aprons.”
“Grab plates, this ain’t gonna take long. Ya care if we kill all o’ tha bacon?”
“No, make however much you want to eat; I only like a little of it.”
Tony wished he had a photo of the face Victor made when he tossed lemongrass over eggs and handed him the plate. He had cooked quite a few eggs and scrambled the rest with gusto. Apparently, he planned to eat them with a spoon.
They sat on the black stools at the island across one corner from each other.
“Ya could land a plane in here.”
“Is that weird?”
“Naw, I like a lotta space.”
“Our pile of bacon is in danger of being conquered by Spain. I’m going to rescue maybe four of them, so the rest are all yours.”
“Works fer me. Don’t eat much, do ya?”
“Needing to eat is something I wish I could fix, except for New York pizza. Nothing against food and this is delicious, but … I like doing what I do and having to stop to eat, well, stops me. If I could live on coffee and scotch, life would be simpler and I’d get more done.”
“Guess I never thought ‘bout it much. I prefer t’ hunt.” He saw Tony watching him and looked away. “Healin’ factor don’t work if I don’t eat.”
“It’s okay, I want to know about you – get to know you, I mean.”
“I just do. Being amazing in bed – and in the shower – is probably not your only talent.”
“Ya don’t like my other talents none.”
“I do, some of them. You shoot down a mean enemy plane, for one thing, and you’re quite skilled at saving my ass.”
Victor smirked. “Just savin’ it fer myself.”
“A valid reason.” He munched on a piece of bacon as Victor finished his eggs and began to eat bacon by the handful. “Why a spoon?”
“Easier’n usin’ fingers on eggs. Me an’ forks don’t get along that good. Rather use claws.”
“Nothing wrong with that.”
“I save messin’ with utensils fer when I gotta pretend I’m civilized – ya already know better.”
Wiping his fingers off on his napkin, Tony drank more coffee. “We have two days, not to mention two nights, until Monday morning. We need to fetch the pulse device before then, at some point. I should also warn you that even though I have the weekend off, a mission may come up, it happens a lot, and being ‘off’ doesn’t mean I don’t have some work to do. It mostly means I get a break from routine and I don’t have to do any press, meetings, whatever.”
“Why tell me all that? If’n ya need t’ work, I’ll bring ya tha tech an’ get outta yer hair.”
“I’m telling you because I want you to stay until then – I’m just letting you know what may be involved. It’s polite. More coffee?”
When he nodded, Tony got up and took their mugs to the carafe the open doors of the coffee machine had revealed.
“We need to be able to talk to each other.”
Victor snorted as he worked on slaying the platter of bacon. “Ya need t’ learn how t’ answer yer phone.”
“I do. I’m a workaholic. I meant now, though – face to face. If there is anything you want to say or share – or whatever … you can. People who want to spend a weekend in bed together should still be able to talk to each other.”
“Lotta buzz in media on how ya play tha ‘fuck ‘em an’ drop ‘em’ game; ya even told me in tha tent that was yer thing – gettin’ some an’ gettin’ gone. So why ya wanna do all this talkin’ now?”
Tony sighed as he brought the mugs back and sat down. “Here’s the deal. We both know you have … issues. Truth is, I have a pack of them all my own. Not talking about things got us into avoidable trouble before. I had no idea you were a switch in bed and I lied about wanting you that way in the interest of self-preservation. You took it as some sort of rejection – like my need to take a break before we broke my ass. I just think it would help.”
Victor studied him in silence long enough to make him fidget on the stool. “Ain’t gonna talk ‘bout some stuff.”
“That’s okay, I have a few of those, too – but you seem to be a ‘clam up’ type when I’m just trying to understand you. I need to improve also, like calling you back. Will you try?”
Victor watched him, the expression hovering between wary and something Tony couldn’t define. Finally, he nodded. “Ain’t easy…”
“I know, I respect that.” When the mutant got up and started taking the dishes to the sink behind him, Tony glanced over his shoulder. “Just leave them there, Maria will wash up – she comes in at three o’clock.”
Turning to stand by the sink, Victor watched him again. “I get it, why ya wanna talk – yer a chatterbox. I already know yer favorite game is twenty questions.”
“Excellent suggestion, let’s play. Does coffee do anything for you? The caffeine doesn’t affect you?”
“So why drink it?”
Victor crossed the room, picked up the sugar bowl and poured a good half of it into his mug before sitting again to gulp it.
“Wow,” Tony whispered in awe. “Clearly I did not use enough before.”
“It’s an excuse t’ eat sugar an’ draws less stares than just upendin’ tha bowl int’ my toothy maw. Fer tha java, dunno…” Victor shrugged. “It’s somethin’ men do.”
“What a curious phrase. Where did that come from?”
Victor’s gaze skated away from him as he looked down at the floor. Tony made a mental note that he did that, and variations of the body language of avoidance, whenever his confidence seemed to be pierced or if he thought he’d be judged or rejected. It was different than the angry defensive reaction to the same criteria, but he could never anticipate which type of response he’d get.
Maybe it has to do with his present perception of where he stands with someone. When he thought I was done with him, and to be fair, he was right, he got hostile – both times. Now we have all weekend and he’s – not relaxed, that’s incorrect – he’s worried or unsure… Why? No clue. Damn.
Victor rose again with his mug to lean against the sink counter. It seemed casual on the surface, yet Tony recognized it instantly as exactly the sort of thing he often did to get space when he felt irritated or overwhelmed – unless he just bailed for the workshop, which afforded him a lot more space.
“Are ya talkin’ t’ yer house?” Victor asked, his tone subdued. “Can it talk in yer head?”
“Not yet.” He … reminds me of a mistreated pet. Geez. Not cool to think that. “Sorry, I get distracted easily, remember? Did you want to tell me where you heard that?”
“Old … friend … used t’ say it. He’d say he was gonna teach me ‘somethin’ that men do’. I’m still … tryin’ t’ learn how t’ be a person.”
Tony looked up sharply at that but Victor was glancing away again. He got up, approaching slowly. Setting his coffee down on the counter, he took Victor’s wrist and appropriated the mug, putting it next to his. He claimed both wrists in his fingers, thumbs pressing gently into the impressive raised veins and tendons there. Abruptly, he had the mutant’s full attention.
“You are a person. Why was he teaching you that?”
“Cuz I wasn’t back then.”
“Early 1880s. Nowadays ya’d call me a kid but shoulda been a grown man – wasn’t, cuz didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout how t’ be that. Spent most o’ my growin’ years chained in a root cellar gettin’ my ‘devil teeth’ an’ claws yanked out.”
“What the hell…?” Tony whispered.
“When I met ‘im, was ‘round fifteen or close ‘nuff. Was sick o’ runnin’ in tha woods, wanted t’ find out what people were like – other people, not bastards like my pa. I started watchin’ settlers, trappers in camps, an’ folks on tha fringes o’ li’l boom towns.”
“You met your friend in a town?”
“Naw, out in tha woods – he was huntin’. Instinct don’t take no learnin’ really, but humans don’t accept a critter like me among ‘em less’n I can pretend t’ be more like ‘em. He started teachin’ me how. He got us work buildin’ a railroad, up int’ tha Yukon. Other people never did accept me, but after a few found out they couldn’t push me ‘round, tha rest quit tryin’.”
“I can imagine.”
“Nowadays, sittin’ at a table at a patio café, wearin’ a suit an’ drinkin’ a cup o’ joe – that let’s ‘em pretend better’n they otherwise could. Calms tha hairs on their arms, tells whatever’s left o’ instinct inside ‘em that maybe I’m civilized ‘nuff t’ be safe. I ain’t – but I … like t’ pretend, too. Sometimes.”
“Well, I can understand that, I don’t always have an easy time around regular people, either. It’s almost impossible to fully be myself because if I am, they don’t understand me … and I tend to end up offending them sooner or later. Mostly sooner.”
“Ya gotta talk down below yer level t’ be understood.”
“Yes… That – phrase – is something I caught a lot of flak for … years ago. How do you know about that?”
“Thorough an’ dedicated stalkin’. Plus, I got folks that work fer me who collect mags ya show up in. Celeb trash or science journals, all o’ that.”
“There’s that stalwart work ethic again.”
“Can I get my hands back?”
“I’m not done with them yet. You like sugar – a lot.”
“Got me a sweet tooth, always did.”
Steering him by the wrists, Tony moved him over to the stool that was still pulled out at the center island. Victor sat, watching him warily. Releasing the wrists, Tony cupped the man’s jaw and kissed him, his thumbs stroking the thick but soft mutton chop sideburns.
Tony broke the kiss and smiled down at him. “So which one is the sweet tooth? This one?” He leaned in and licked the front of one of the long upper fangs. “Or this one? Or this?” Victor pressed into the touch on the other upper fang and the longer lower one, putty in his hands as a purr sparked. “I think it’s this one – it’s my favorite and just as long as the other one now.”
He brought his hand up and stroked the fang with his finger. Going in to kiss him again, when the mouth opened, he let his finger slip in to carefully touch the serrated inner curve.
The purr guttered into a low and dangerous growl instantly. Tony didn’t remove his finger but kept it still.
“Is that a warning because you’re worried I’ll hurt you? Or are you worried I’ll end up hurting myself on the sharp bits?” Withdrawing the finger only to rest it on the bottom lip, he whispered, “Tell me.”
“I won’t hurt you.”
“Did hurt me.” The amber gaze slid off to the side.
Tony moved his hand. “Victor, tell me.”
“Shot my shoulder out with that infernal steampunk suit – without tha Adamantium, might coulda lost tha arm. Whole mass o’ flesh – fuckin’ vaporized down t’ tha bone in one hit. Ain’t never pickin’ a fight with ya in one o’ those damn suits, tell ya that.”
He twitched when Tony touched that shoulder and then bent to kiss it.
“I’m sorry. I react badly to guns being fired while they’re aimed at my face. I had no idea what was really going on, like you said.”
“Not gonna call in SHIELD on me? Or tha X-freaks?”
“No. I panicked; I never should have said that.”
“Ya meant it, shoulda or not. I know yer kinda buds with ‘em.”
“Not really, although I do get along with Hank McCoy. SHIELD usually just annoys me but they’re a client, sort of – but not for weapons, propulsion toys, mostly. Professor Xavier is a client for home security systems I designed; I told you that on the phone, ages ago.”
Victor snarled at the mere mention of the professor. “Goodie. So next time those shit-stain asswipes collar me, it’ll be yer zappers I gotta fight through t’ get loose. Fun.”
“You’ll be happy to know it doesn’t include repulsors. You hate the X-Men a lot, don’t you?”
“Hate their pink steamin’ worthless guts, though I ain’t personally seen their guts – not all ‘o ‘em … yet.”
“Fresh topic time.” Tony stroked the shoulder affectionately and then straightened. “I want to do something but it isn’t as much fun for either of us if I explain it to you first. Are you willing to trust me – just a little?”
“Told ya – do whatever ya want t’ me.”
“Ah, okay, newer new topic – you need lessons in consent.”
The effect from really close up of the ears pinning, a low warning growl peeling the lips off the teeth, and the feral eyes narrowing to a wary glare could be considered a possible natural substitute for laxatives.
“If’n ya think yer gonna turn me int’ a lap cat just cuz I like playin’ hide-tha-dick with ya – gotta new think headin’ yer way.”
Tony held his hands up within sight but didn’t retreat or react other than raising an eyebrow at him.
“No lap cats, that’s not what I want. You said you were learning how people behave – this is … something men do. I do, at any rate, plus most men I like to hang out with. Want to play?”
The growl stopped. “I’m listenin’.”
“Here goes… Let me explain first – consent doesn’t only mean that you have to get permission to do things. It also means others have to wait to get your consent to do things to you.”
Victor frowned. “That’s a short list. Near everybody thinks they gotta right t’ do any-damn-thing t’ me: lock me up, experiment on me, pry my head open like tha fuckin’ Sunday funnies, shove molten metal int’ me…”
“Those people were wrong.”
“They were stronger’n me. Law o’ tha jungle.”
“‘Might makes right’ isn’t the law of the land anymore, not for you to exploit or for them to use to hurt you.”
“High an’ mighty speeches ain’t gonna stop ‘em doin’ it, anymore’n it’d stop me. Still meant what I said – don’t care what ya wanna do t’ me. Want ya doin’ stuff, so ain’t gonna whine an’ fuss like a squirrelly bitch ‘bout what ya want.”
“Uh-huh. I need a patience hat. How to explain it better… Think about this for a second – you say I can do anything I want but you growled when I seemed to be about to grab a fang. You admitted it was a warning against hurting you. So, technically, you are setting limits on what I can do – you just don’t want to say so. I’m not going to be put out or toss you out for saying, ‘grabbing my fangs freaks me out, please don’t do that.’”
Slowly, after a hesitant silence, Victor nodded once. “Awright.”
“You can say no anytime and so can I. Now I think you’ll like this, but some things lose a lot of appeal, not to mention spontaneity, if they’re spelled out beforehand. So … can I get a little trust and do this?”
“Open your mouth for me a little, honey. I won’t hurt you.”
Careful and quick, he nicked his index finger after the first joint on the serrated edge of his favorite fang. He felt Victor flinch and the mouth closed the second his finger got clear of it. When he pressed the bleeding cut to the lips between the big fangs, the reaction was immediate. His wrist was grasped in long thick fingers as the mouth eagerly sucked and licked at the blood.
Tony watched him, a little fascinated, as the sucking turned to the sort of licking he did to stop the bleeding. When he got his finger back, he smiled down at the mutant. “Not so bad, right? Still going to need a bandage.” He moved away to fetch one from the pantry.
“Didn’t think ya’d be int’ blood games,” Victor whispered as he returned.
“I had no idea I could be. Call me the adventurous type. I wouldn’t do it with anyone else – barebacking included. Your healing factor negates the risks, for one thing.” He rinsed the finger at the sink, peeled the little bandage, and wrapped it around the cut. “The exploring of new things is the best part of the learning curve when you find someone unique and fascinating. Discover what they like, tell them what you like, and try to meet in the middle on the things that don’t immediately mesh.”
“So whattaya like?”
“I am a master of the drunken one night stand all-night-long screw with a stranger I hope to never see again, as you mentioned before. It’s my thing.” He smiled at the dubious look that got him. “While that’s true, I’m also into discovering some new things with you. A few of your tricks have taken over my brain.”
There was the smirk, shot through with a bit more confidence.
“Ya like how I suck ya off an’ make ya shoot yer jizz straight down my throat, ready or not.”
“I really do.” Tony went to fetch their mugs and gave Victor his sugar-coffee soup back. “I’m also pretty fond of how blunt, raunchy, and shameless you are.”
“Don’t see no point t’ pussyfootin’ ‘bout.”
Tony gulped his coffee to finish it off, and then made a decision that was bound to distress JARVIS, not to mention Pepper.
“I want to show you something, a few somethings – and you wanted to retrieve your clothes and phone.”
“The workshop. Come on.”
Now that he had seen the window in the bedroom become a computer screen, the access keypad appearing in the glass wall by the workshop door was less of a shock. Victor intentionally didn’t watch him put in the code just to prove he could be trusted.
“Daddy’s home,” Tony said to the vast room.
Many things turned on or lit up at once and Victor struggled to maintain a poker face and not snarl at it all. Then a thing he had thought was equipment moved and swung closer to the man. Pushing him behind him, Victor growled at it, hissing as his claws popped.
“Don’t kill it, please – that’s Dum-E.”
Tony moved from behind his protective arm. “I told you the suits aren’t robots, that I have robots at home – that’s one of them. The other one over there, with the video equipment, that’s U.”
“The letter ‘U’, that’s its … well, sort of name, I guess. I was saying ‘hey you’ a lot and it stuck.”
“That mean tha other one’s stupid?”
“No, it means it’s not exactly state-of-the-art these days and messes up often. I built it when I was fifteen and wanted to win the fourth annual MIT Robot Design Award. I started building circuit boards at four, my first engine at six. Dum-E was made in my dad’s workshop. It has its uses but don’t hand it a fire extinguisher – or a cocktail shaker.”
“Ruin my fun, why don’t ya,” Victor groused.
“Sarcasm level: expert!” Tony grinned at him.
“Did ya win it – tha contest thing?”
“Of course I did.” Tony tossed him a wink as he walked off. “Come on. Lots to see.”
Victor followed but stopped short when he saw the displays of several suits in separate alcoves. They had all been left in the shadows when he first arrived and at the time, he had only had eyes for the inventor.
“My pride and joy,” Tony announced proudly, as other men might show off their cubs.
Frowning, Victor sniffed in their direction. Every one of them was armed with repulsor technology and enough ordinance to level a few city blocks.
“Ain’t my faves o’ all tha stuff ya invented.”
“They can’t hurt you from there. They’re like the old adage, ‘suits don’t kill people, people do’. I am working on a new trick or two, though, where they will be able to act more like robots – controllable remotely – mostly utilizing JARVIS.”
He had to smirk at Tony’s desk. The half-circle shape was odd but it was huge – just like Victor preferred his.
“Have a seat,” Tony invited, pulling out the chair. Seeing his eyebrow arch at it, the man smiled. “I sit in it in the suit sometimes; it can take your weight.”
Victor sat and stared at the tiered banks of screens. “Ya need a few more monitors.”
“Actually, I don’t need any of them.”
Leaning over Victor’s arm, he touched a piece of glass on the desk and a keyboard appeared – or maybe it was a control panel for the space ship house. The deft fingers tapped at the strange keys.
“Yer keyboard uses Mayan hieroglyphics?”
“Among other things. Bonus for guessing that, most people don’t know what any of them are. Can you read them?”
Tony tapped a few more symbols. “Keep the claws to yourself but look up there.”
Victor twitched and growled when disembodied computer images, a dozen different ones of varying sizes, appeared in the air all over the room in front of the desk. He got up and went around the desk to sniff at them, hissing at one when he tried to touch it and his fingers actually moved a shape within it.
“That ain’t no hologram…”
“Hard light hologram, horse of a different color. The UI enables the movement of elements in the design but it’s the gesture you made that moved it – there’s technically nothing there to actually touch.”
“UI – that’s ‘user interface’?”
“It is.” Tony beamed at him.
“So this is how tha glass works? Didn’t seem like a projection.”
“Yes – but this is an advancement on the glass tech. The glass is a part of the AI in the house and in the suits.”
Stepping behind the image, Victor watched Tony through it. “Want me t’ move that back?”
“Don’t worry about it, unless you just want to play with it – not a vital model.”
“It looks like a boot. Weird.”
“It is a boot. Older plan for the Mark II. So – impressed?”
“Def impressed. Gonna show me yer wheels?”
“Are we done with the computer tech show and tell? I have a lot more to show – and tell.”
“I bet.” Victor moved back to his side, glancing down again at the mind-boggling keyboard that wasn’t even physically there. “Yer Number One thinks I’m here t’ steal all yer tech secrets – less o’ that ya show me, probly fer tha better, I’m thinkin’.”
Tony winced, looking sheepish. “You heard all of that, huh?”
“I don’t think that.”
“Good, cuz I ain’t.”
“So are you just here because I mentioned a second date? Out to get your rocks off, like me? A noble goal.”
“Naw, I’m here t’ take a stab at wooin’ ya off yer feet.” Grinning, Victor winked at him. “Also need t’ get yer Hydra toy offa my fuckin’ jet – damn thing weighs nearly a ton an’ its slowin’ me down, fuel-wise.”
Chuckling, Tony hit a non-existant button on the glass and all of the ghostly holograms disappeared.
“The garage portion of the workshop is a self-guided tour. While you’re doing that, I should get some work done on a few projects. Deadlines are the Devil’s mistress.”
“Gotta be draggin’ tha line, I get it.”
“Means workin’ rain or shine, from a song by Tommy James, was a hit in 1971.”
“What were you doing in 1971?”
“Tryin’ t’ slip my CIA leash any chance I got. They were assholes, still pissed off ‘bout me goin’ AWOL t’ hit up tha party at Woodstock a ways prior.”
“Woodstock. The Woodstock.”
Tony whistled. “Remind me to borrow your music collection. I’ll even trade you for tech secrets.”
“What were ya doin’ in ‘71?”
“Learning to crawl? As if you didn’t already know that, stalker-boy.”
Victor smirked as he went around him and headed to the top of the row of parked treasures. His sniper rifle was still where he had left it, leaning on the concrete wall by the driveway ramp. Every step he took, the claws on his bare toes clicked on the concrete floor.
After a moment of watching him in silence, Tony followed him. “I bet I don’t need to tell you what they are.”
“Nope. Ya killed tha Shelby Cobra, huh?”
“Trial and error during testing. Prematurely killed the power in the Mark II and fell through a lot of the house. Shelby pancake, horrid tragedy. New lift, though – silver lining.”
“Not tha last one o’ those toys in tha world, ya know.”
“You have one?” When Victor nodded at him, he shook his head. “Jealous.”
“Let ya borrow it sometime if ya play yer cards right.” Glancing at him, Victor smiled as he arched an eyebrow at the man. “Yer ‘bout t’ pop – go do stuff if’n ya gotta. Won’t tarnish yer host rep any – if ya got one. I got these beauties t’ play with.”
“Okay, if you’re sure you don’t mind. If you want anything, the little kitchen over there has all sorts of things and there’s a bathroom in that direction, too.”
“Quit fussin’, I’m fine.” Victor stepped up to him and bent down for a tonsil-sucking kiss, just to remind the man what he could be doing instead.
“You are evil.”
“That’s what they tell me.”
Victor already knew about every car in Tony’s collection – the ones kept here and others housed elsewhere – but it was a singular pleasure to be here with the inventor not far off. He was aware Tony kept watching him here and there, the rapt expression on his pretty face one of fascination and curiosity. It warmed his blood and thickened his cock, which was a problem in the tight pajama pants.
Amused when Tony tried to pretend he was working, Victor eventually gathered up his things and dropped the boots next to the desk. He leaned the rifle against it too, next to the sloppy pile of wadded clothes. Fishing out his phone, he leaned a hip on the edge of the desk and checked his texts.
As Tony typed and clicked on the glass keyboard, some odd 3D model that was hanging in the air was changing shape, colors, and orientation. Watching him instead of the hologram, he called the banker.
“Hey. Shoot,” he greeted his friend. “Malibu, with Stark. Gonna be here ‘til Monday afternoon, then I’ll head anywhere ya wanna point me. Did that bleedin’ heart dickhead down south ever commit t’ jack all? Yeah? Does he give a shit that ‘is ‘special request’ puts me goin’ from New York t’ Arizona an’ back up t’ Vermont inside o’ a fuckin’ week? Fuck. Naw, I’ll do it – he’s good fer it. See if Montreal can be pushed back, huh? Schedule like that, gonna need t’ hit tha Appalachians fer a quickie break. Yup – exactly what I was thinkin’. Naw, she’s on it. Gotcha. Later.” Victor set the phone on the clothing pile on the desk.
“How is Creepy-san these days? Does he regret his wingman stunt now that I’m bogarting you all weekend?”
“Don’t matter t’ ‘im – time off is good therapy. Ya should try it sometime.”
“For me, making new things is my good therapy.”
“I can see that – still think ya need more dickin’ though. So why ya keep lookin’ stuck on this thing – whatever it is?”
“I’m not really stuck on this; I just need to figure out more that I can do. How about a drink? I’m having one. I don’t have Glenfiddich down here, its upstairs. Vodka? Dirty martini?”
“Works fer me.”
“It’s five o’clock somewhere, right?”
“Sit tight, I can make ‘em.”
Finding things by scent, he threw together two dirty martinis in the ultra-modern kitchenette area and returned to sit on top of the steel curved desk next to the weird keyboard.
“Here. So what’s got ya stuck? Ya work nearly all tha time, why ya need more t’ do? Ya need t’ relax, loosen up, an’ have some fun.”
Victor downed half of his drink in one gulp, struggling not to smirk when Tony noticed the stiff plaid erection.
Tony took the drink and sighed after the first sip. “Mother’s milk. I have a board of directors to worry about – Stark Industries took a hit in the stock market after I said I wouldn’t make weapons for the military anymore. The natives are restless and I need to throw them some new bones.”
“Yer gonna come up with somethin’, ya always do.”
“Hey – you’re a smart tech-savvy guy, help me brainstorm. What can I invent new or make better that isn’t weapons? A market with a wide and rich potential for expansion would be ideal, something everyone needs.”
“Huh. Lemme think.”
Victor looked around the workshop and then down at his distracting groin as he finished off his drink and set the glass on the desk. Tony was trying not to stare at the blonde’s straining cock. Happy probably wasn’t going to get those pajamas back – their odds of surviving the afternoon intact were abysmal.
“All this an’ ya never made yer own sexbot?”
“What? Ah, no.”
“Because I’m against slavery?”
“Don’t count with a robot. Program it t’ say yes.”
Stumped, Tony frowned. “You’re missing the point. Wide.”
“Thing I always wondered? How would ya handle cleanin’ it. It’d be metal, rubber, plastic – right? A woman can wash but unless ya programmed fer that, it’s gonna be like a used brass spittoon after a bit.”
Tony grunted, rolled the chair back, and put his head on his desk.
“Maybe ya could make tha pussy an’ ass a detachable waterproof piece? Mouth an’ throat, too. Rinse em in tha sink, snap ‘em back on. Simple.”
“Can’t we change the subject? We do not share the same viewpoints here.”
“Ain’t a person – yer bein’ squeamish; it don’t suit ya. Take blow-up dolls –”
“I’d rather not.”
“They’re in sore need fer an upgrade. Never saw tha point, myself – they pop too easy an’ like I said, they’re a bitch t’ clean.”
“Is this being helpful?”
“‘What can ya invent new or make better that ain’t weapons’ was tha question on tha table.”
Baffled, Tony muttered into the desk, “I’m not making sexbots.”
“Bein’ able t’ get yer rocks off without havin’ t’ listen t’ some bitch whine an’ complain? I call that a market with a ‘wide an’ rich potential fer expansion’. They’d be pricey, sure, but ya’d only be payin’ fer ‘em tha once – ‘steada fer tha rest o’ yer soddin’ life.”
“Please tell me you’re joking?” He lifted his head and saw the stretch of the sharp grin topped by a wink. It sparked a reluctant snort. “Warn me next time.”
“Where’s tha fun in that?”
“You do grasp what is awful and wrong about all that, right?”
“Yer precious fight against misogyny? I noticed. ‘Sides, it’s a moot point – not like ya got any trouble gettin’ laid. How ‘bout tha rest o’ us schmucks?”
“Vodka, give me patience,” he prayed, and gulped his glass down. Setting it beside Victor’s, his hand moved like a moth to a flame to cup and squeeze the incredible erection. The mutant’s groan sharpened his lust in seconds. “Pop it out for me and hold it straight up. I need to see it.” As soon as he did it, Tony gripped it under the head and ran his thumb through the pre-cum beading the slit, smearing it. “Okay, fuck it – I need this. Gimme.”
“How ya want it?”
“Lose the pants and scoot forward. I want it right here.” Tony caught his wrist before claws could shred. Winking at him, he added, “Just shuck them off.”
Once he got them off his stunning ass, Tony pulled them down and dropped them on the floor. Without a peep of complaint, Victor moved and angled his body to offer it up. One foot planted on the seat of the chair as his hands hit and grabbed the edge of the steel desk. The legs spread as slow as the sharp grin.
Fumbling for his dick, not wanting to take his eyes off Victor’s awkward pose somehow made effortless, Tony forgot to care about the lube on the couch. Pushing in and starting to thrust, he drank in the sight of the powerful feral taking it with a hunger he’d never seen before. The cat eyes didn’t close, but watched him, too.
Tony grabbed the thick cock that was smearing pre-cum on Victor’s ribs and pulled it to him. When he gripped it hard, he grinned at the grunt and moan. Setting his feet, his other arm grabbed around the thigh over the chair so he could make it fast and rough.
He was busily jacking Victor’s cock under that glazed amber stare as the mutant hissed. The muscles of chest and shoulders shifted. He was distracted by something.
“What do you want, tell me…”
“Work yer finger int’ tha slit – fuck that, too.”
“Wow. Okay…” His thrusts eased up as he released the thigh and looked at his fingers. Angling the wrist, he put his pinkie to the hole. He’d never done this before but taking him at his word…
“Don’t bother bein’ careful,” the huffing rasp of the low voice told him. “Circle it in, use tha slick.”
Tony was so surprised at the instant electric reaction when the finger pushed in, he missed his rhythm and had to get it back again. Once the top joint disappeared, it felt like the cock was trying to suck it in deeper. Fascinated, he obliged.
“You’re lucky I could always chew gum and walk at the same time.”
The amber glow disappeared as the feral closed his eyes on a deep groan. “Fuck me…”
Tony got back to making it rough and grinned as the mutant struggled to remain still. He thrust his pinkie in and out in time with the rest, amazed at what it was doing to him. “Don’t hold back,” he whispered, “I want to see you come like this.”
Waiting was beyond his ability and he didn’t try. Victor’s excitement seemed to increase after Tony came, so he kept the thrusts going. As his companion’s orgasm hit, it sprayed and dribbled around his pinkie until he pulled it out. He managed not to catch it with his face but let it hit his chest where it dripped and slid down the cover of the arc reactor.
Smiling, Tony pulled free and set his feet again, knowing what Victor would do. The mutant’s body moved as if his spine was made of elastic and rubber instead of covered by Adamantium. One arm circled his waist and pulled him closer as the tongue eagerly went to work to clean off the reactor and his flushed skin around it.
Still sitting on the desk, he set his forehead on Tony’s shoulder and this time, Tony lifted his hands to stroke the drying hair. The large body shivered at the touch. The heightened intimacy of it all struck him at once and without bothering to consider why, he retreated from it and dropped his hands to the broad shoulders.
“Maybe that’s enough line dragging for now,” he muttered into a twitching pointed ear. We should relax a bit. How about a little TV?” The low rumbling purr threatened to melt his bones. “You can get your cuddle on,” Tony conceded. Moving away and setting his lounge pants to rights, he added, “Don’t forget to grab your stuff. Better shinny back into the plaid, though – just in case.”
When Victor moved off the desk and Tony asked JARVIS to shut things down, he saw car keys poking out of Victor’s wadded up jeans.
“Did you drive here? I didn’t see a vehicle when I flew in.”
The feral swallowed hard, seeming a bit dazed still. “It’s down yer hill,” he muttered.
“Oh, well, you should bring it up. There’s the circular drive in front, if you don’t want to park it in here.”
Victor shook his head as if trying to clear out cobwebs. “Gonna be in my jeans fer that.”
“Want me to drive you down?”
“No escaping. Monday afternoon, they can have you back – until then, you’re mine. Right?”
Victor’s tentative smile slowly morphed into the trademark smirk. “Yes, Tony.”
~ ~ ~
Tony stood at the open front doors and watched as Victor parked a black Hummer H1. Walking out to him, he handed over the sniper rifle and the mutant stowed it in the back.
“Excellent. Now let’s get you back out of those jeans. This is pajamas day. More clothes?” he asked, as Victor pulled a large black duffel bag from the cab. “Got your own pajamas?”
“Nope – don’t own any. Got some like these, though.” Two fingers pinched the soft black cotton over Tony’s groin and tugged it playfully.
Tony waited in the living room for him as Victor went down the stairs to put his stuff in the bedroom. He returned in gray cotton lounge pants that actually fit him.
Leading the way to the long curve of the couch, he saw Victor blinking in the bright sunlight. “JARVIS, dim the windows a bit and give us CNN.”
“Of course, sir.”
Watching for the reaction of his guest, Tony smiled at Victor’s raised upper lip. He had hesitated for a moment when a large part of the panoramic window glass became a television screen and the rest of it dimmed to mute the sunshine coming in.
“Impressive poker face.” Tony sat on the couch on one end.
“So tha ugly-ass art in yer bedroom ain’t hidin’ a screen? It’s on tha windows everywhere.”
“Correct. The ugly-ass art is a painting several people I don’t like desperately want to buy. I wanted to display it where I could appreciate the fact that they can’t have it. It’s Jackson Pollock’s ‘No. 5’ from 1948 and it set me back $140 million.”
Victor snorted. “I’d give ya a shiny nickel an’ hang it in an outhouse.”
“It’s a pointless gloat thing. It also looks better when you’re drunk. Join me?”
The mutant stretched out on the couch and put his head on Tony’s lap, just like the cat he had claimed earlier that he didn’t intend to be. Electing not to tease him about it, Tony picked up one of the fancy beads in his hair and toyed with it. There were two that looked like bone and were carved – one full of roses and the other decorated with a spiral of black birds, maybe ravens.
“Are these antiques?”
“Guess ya could say that.”
“Ah … are they … people?”
“Trophies?” Tony set the bead gently onto the sculpted cheekbone.
“No. Closer t’ tha concept o’ ‘memento mori’.”
“Remember death? You pretty much can’t die, so why do you need to remember it?”
“Keepsakes?” He drew in a deep breath and let it out as a shaky sigh. “Ya probly don’t wanna know…”
Tony picked them both up and let them sit on his fingers. “I do want to know. It’s okay.”
“Tha ravens, bone came from a man who tried t’ kill me when I was young. My friend, who taught me how t’ build tha railroad, he carved it from tha femur – scorched tha birds in our fire t’ turn ‘em black. I carved tha other one with tha roses … after he was killed.”
“Our fire… I understand – he was more than just a friend. I’m sorry. You still wear them…”
He fell silent and Tony swallowed, feeling like an intruder. A thin sliver of jealousy threaded through his awkward regret in digging up painful things the feral probably didn’t want to share. He’d never felt a connection like that, beyond friendship – he wasn’t sure he was capable of it. Glancing up at the glass front doors, he thought of Pepper.
I wanted to … but she stopped that cold after I revealed to the press that I was Iron Man. It was leaving her in a lurch on that roof at the benefit – running off… She needs someone she can rely on, someone who will be there for her. She knows me too well, I guess. He let the carved femur bone beads roll off his fingers. This is Pepper. She deserves better than you and you know it.
When Victor shifted, Tony moved his arm to let him rise to sit up. The black pupils were wider in the dimmed light. He found himself staring into those strange eyes as Victor moved closer and touched his face.
The kiss was slow, light and gentle, giving instead of taking, and he found himself sinking into it and relaxing in the other man’s cradling touch under his jaw.
Whispering against those soft lips, ignoring the lethal spikes on either side of them, Tony asked, “Have you ever felt like that again … after?”
“You’re ahead of me by a mile, then.”
Victor pulled back enough to look in his eyes, his expression softer and more open than he’d ever seen it, even in sleep.
“What are you thinking?”
“Ya probly don’t wanna know.”
Tony studied him in silence a moment before leaning in to kiss him with a growing lust that only partly felt like an escape from the warmth in the feral’s amber eyes.
“You’re probably right.”
Author’s Note: Baseball research trivia: in 2003, the Chicago Cubs were the runners-up for the National League Championship. Of course, Victor really likes them because of the word “cubs”. The little girl he used to take to games was his partner Lenusya when she was an actual little kid, before her mutant gift kicked in.
Victor is too afraid of rejection to be honest about how he feels, so he hides emotional things in flippant quips and avoidance and Tony assumes he’s kidding. Tony is shying away from anything more intimate than just getting their rocks off and once the sex is over, he retreats. These two are both a mess in the ‘how to build and navigate feelings’ department, romantically speaking. Poor hyper-sexed yet love-starved boys… LOL.
Thanks for reading my tiny little IronTooth ship! – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)